The History of the Great Barrington Du Bois Legacy Committee
Mission: To preserve and promote Great Barrington native W.E.B. Du Bois's legacy as a scholar and activist for freedom, civil rights, progressive education, economic justice, and racial equality.
No longer in Great Barrington is W.E.B. Du Bois a Dream Deferred. The Great Barrington Du Bois Legacy Committee was born on September 3, 2018, at 7:14 pm. It was joyous occasion, with the town Selectboard voting the Legacy Committee into existence, unanimously, with a packed room witnessing history being made.
The Du Bois Legacy Committee had been conceived in January 2017, albeit unwittingly, when Randy Weinstein, the director of the Du Bois Center at Great Barrington, and Selectboard members Steve Bannon and Ed Abrahams met over coffee. Their agenda was arrow-straight. W.E.B. Du Bois would be turning one hundred fifty on February 23, 2018, and the town ought to commemorate the milestone event. They agreed that the anniversary celebration would embrace the "whole" Du Bois, without editing out uncomfortable truths, without apology, and afterward honor his post-150th legacy. The following month, the full Selectboard gave the green light, and things moved rapidly. Randy contacted Gwendolyn Hampton VanSant, the ceo of BRIDGE, and an old friend. They would undertake organizing Great Barrington's 150th Du Bois Festival together. The co-chairs soon established a town-supported legacy committee, the genesis of the current town-appointed committee. The community stood squarely behind the town. The aim of the committee was visible to everyone, with regal banners up and down Main Street setting the tone for the year ahead, fluttering core Du Boisian values – civil rights, progressive education, economic justice, and racial equality.
It was a one for all, all for one endeavor. Businesses and organizations signed on enthusiastically, some providing venues and funds. Academic institutions from Great Barrington to Williamstown to Amherst lent resources and expertise, while noted Du Boisians like Cornell Brooks and David Levering Lewis contributed valuable historical perspectives. Volunteers became an orchestra, together planning and running programs intended to entertain, teach, and uplift. Whether discussing German influences in Souls of Black Folk and the roots of the Civil Rights Movement or viewing a stunning student mural, rare artifacts, and an onstage tour de force performance, presenters set the bar high in order to assure the integrity of the Du Bois 150th. The Festival brought out the best in town government and its citizens, a sense of something larger than self, a commitment to close ranks when it came to permanently honoring Du Bois.
No more dreams deferred. The community is indebted to the pioneering work of Du Boisians- scholars and activists, past and present. Their struggles on behalf of Du Bois live in the town's rich history and make us even stronger with resolve. Their dream became reality on September 3, 2018, when the Selectboard avowed "to preserve and promote Great Barrington native W.E.B. Du Bois's legacy as a scholar and activist for freedom, civil rights, progressive education, economic justice, and racial equality."
An official guardian of the Du Bois flame, Great Barrington may well be the first municipality in the country to so honor the Civil Rights icon. Rarely is history created before your very eyes revealing a community's best angels.
~Randy Weinstein, Chair